A pair of socks hanging in a tree on this bright, crisp, morning along the Wandle Trail en route to Colliers Wood reminded me of my rugby boots. On 25th June I mentioned my ingenious scrumping in Cottenham Park sometime in the 1950s. Remembering throwing sticks into conker trees when younger, I had decided to chuck my boots into an apple tree intending to knock off some fruit. Unfortunately it didn’t occur to me to untie the laces that bound them together. Soon they were suspended like the socks. More ingenuity was required to get them down. This involved the park keeper who was a bit put out. It made me late for the match. I couldn’t even invent a story which would present me in a better light. The news had been spread all round the changing rooms. Bill Edney, Geography master and rugby coach, was also a bit put out.
On another occasion, when playing for the Wimbledon College Old Boys, I lost a boot on the field. Rather than stop and put it on, choosing to wait for the next natural stoppage, I continued wearing one sole boot. I must be the only player ever to score a try with ‘one shoe off and one shoe on’. (My second name is John). I was probably lent wings to avoid anyone stamping on my stockinged foot.
A lace once came in very handy. When Alan Warren broke my finger (posted 23rd July), I obtained a spare, lace, not finger, from the referee and strapped the damaged digit to its neighbour in order to carry on playing.
It will now be apparent that nothing short of instant death would have got me off the field before the final whistle. When I damaged a shoulder which has given me constant pain for more than fifty years, I couldn’t raise my left arm, but I could rest it across the shoulders of my partner in the second row of the scrum. How daft can you get?
Sam knew. When I was about sixty and hadn’t taken the field for fifteen years, he played for a Newark side against a pub team. Reckoning I must be as fit as most members of the probably inebriated opposition, I sneaked my aged kit along when I went to watch. Just in case. Sam was not one to carry on regardless when injured, so I was puzzled at his continuing the game with a twisted ankle. Afterwards, I asked him why. ‘Because you would have come on’, he replied. And I didn’t think he knew I had come prepared.
During Sam’s stag weekend in the Margaret River area of South West Australia the young men arranged a game of touch rugby. In this form of the game there is no tackling. You just touch your opponent who must then release the ball. This was at the end of a day sampling the wineries. Naturally I joined in. After all, touch rugby is safe enough. Sam’s friend, Deutch, 6′ 5” and about 18 stone, forgot the rules and tackled me hard. Once I got to my feet I took the first opportunity to retaliate. I couldn’t get my arms around his hips. It was then that Mick O’Neil, about to become Sam’s father-in-law, sensibly called a halt to the proceedings, because, he said ‘someone will get hurt’. I think he meant me.
As usual, this morning, I continued my journey to Norman’s by tube. On the Jubilee line between Green Park and Baker Street, a young woman with extremely shapely limbs revealed by the briefest of running shorts; a ring through one nostril; a diamond stud in the other; and acne on her face cheeks spent her time oiling a lion’s head tattoo which was all that covered her right thigh. Perhaps she was applying hair care to the animal’s plentiful mane. Since she was seated directly opposite me, I was somewhat distracted from my book.
Despite having a bad cold, Norman was able to serve up a succulent roast partridge meal followed by apfel strudel. Sadly he was unable to drink all of his half of the 2009 Dao, so I had to imbibe more than mine.